It is hard to fathom that a 16-1-1 fighter needs a win.
However, it is the case for Rashad Evans.
Evans is heading into this fight on a three-fight win streak since losing his light heavyweight title to Lyoto Machida. "Suga" Rashad has been working his way up the rankings looking to get another shot at the gold.
He was set to take on Shogun Rua at UFC 128 until he was forced out of the fight due to an injury. His then-teammate Jon Jones took the fight and the rest is history. Two dominant title defenses later and we are now talking about Jones as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
Rashad at one point was reportedly set to take on Jones at UFC 140, but Evans was once again forced out of the fight and replaced by Lyoto Machida.
Now he is set to take on one of the brightest young stars in the light heavyweight division in Phil Davis.
Davis is a freak athlete with a NCAA Division I wrestling background. We have seen him dominate quality fighters while putting together his 9-0 record. Evans will certainly be the toughest test of his career, but he appears to be prepared for it.
Even so, the pressure is still on Evans in this fight.
His matchup with Jones has been a long time coming. There is clearly a rivalry between these two fighters that the fans want to see settled.
While many have Evans as the favorite in this fight, the question needs to be asked:
What happens if he loses to Davis?
Well, from Davis' perspective, it would be the biggest win of his career and put him in contention for a title shot at Jones. A Davis versus Jones title match would pit two of the UFC's brightest young talents against one another, but it wouldn't carry the same hype as a matchup against Evans.
Then we would need to look at what happens to Evans.
It would still be only the second loss of his MMA career and he still would be considered one of the best light heavyweights in the world, but it would be a major setback on his pursuit to the title. As it stands, Jones has ripped through every light heavyweight that has been put in front of him. There are only so many contenders that the light heavyweight division can muster up.
However, Evans doesn't want to end up at the bottom of that list.
A loss to Davis not only would put "Mr. Wonderful" above Rashad in the rankings, but assure that a fighter like Dan Henderson is going to get a title shot before him. Even though Jones has taken out a large portion of the division already, challengers still remain.
It is entirely possible that we could see a rematch between Rua and Jones before a fight with Evans, if Rashad cannot pull off the win against Davis. It isn't out of the realm of possibility that another rising star like Alexander Gustafsson could earn a shot before Evans.
The light heavyweight division is far too deep to just assume that Evans would still be at the top of the list if he loses to Davis.
Evans' road back to the title could be just as tough as Jones' title defenses.
It is likely he would have to face the likes of Machida and Rua again. If he doesn't take advantage of this shot at the title now, he may never get his chance again.
Evans is a great fighter and a fighter that is worthy of being a champion. He fights in the best MMA organization in the world and in that organization's deepest division. Chances at the title don't come along very often.
His career won't end with a loss to Davis, but his hopes of getting a shot at Jones anytime soon will.
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